Since his arrival to the majors in 2005, Brian McCann has been considered one of the top catchers in all of baseball.
The six-time All-Star has 156 home runs in seven-plus seasons with the Atlanta Braves. Only in one season since 2006 has he not surpassed the 20 home run plateau (18 HR, 2007).
However, it was a painful season for McCann, as he underwent surgery on October 16 to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. He is expected to make a full recovery but not resume any baseball activities for five to six months.
In addition to the surgery, McCann suffered through tendinitis in his knee.
McCann, who finished the final campaign of his six-year $29.8 million contract in 2012, has a $12 million team option for 2013.
The numbers declined for the 28-year-old, as he set career lows in batting average (.230), on-base percentage (.300) and slugging percentage (.399). The 20 home runs were his lowest since 2007, and his RBIs were lowest since 2005, when he was promoted during the summer (67).
Atlanta could travel four different routes this off-season with their 2002 second-round pick.
Exercise the $12 million team option
Despite the dip in numbers, McCann is regarded as one of the top leaders in the organization.
If he comes back healthy, expect the All-Star caliber type player to return and strengthen the Braves lineup. Atlanta can always bring back David Ross, who served as the team's backup the last four seasons, to spell McCann on days he needs rest.
Decline the option
This scenario is the least likeliest to occur.
It would be hard to let one of the leaders, and big bats, of the team simply walk to the free-agent market. There are teams looking for catchers and would jump at offering McCann a marketable contract.
This would be a mistake.
Negotiate a new contract
The Braves can always negotiate a new deal with their catcher.
It would be the cheaper route to take instead of picking up the option.
With needs at other positions, Atlanta would embrace the idea of signing him longer for a cheaper annual salary. There were initial concerns at the beginning of the season about his long-term future with the club after the Cardinals locked up their catcher, Yadier Molina, to a five-year $75 million contract extension in March.
Atlanta wants to keep McCann long term, but after coming off an injury-plagued 2012, five years seems like a long investment.
Of course for this scenario to occur, Atlanta would have to exercise the $12 million option.
Atlanta has money to spend this winter, but they will be allocating their money in a number of different directions. I believe McCann wants to finish his career with the Atlanta Braves, so I expect both sides to come together and get a long-term deal done sooner rather than later.
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